Meta-tate: Pondering The Extended Metagame

1, Artifact, Uncommon T: Remove the bottom card of target player’s graveyard from the game. 1, : Remove target card in any graveyard from the game and draw a card. Illus. George Pratt Before the advent of 6th Edition Rules, artifacts used to shut off when tapped. Cards such as were actually pretty useful in…

Phyrexian Furnace

1, Artifact, Weatherlight Uncommon

T: Remove the bottom card of target player’s graveyard from the game.

1, Sacrifice Phyrexian Furnace: Remove target card in any graveyard from the game and draw a card.

Illus. George Pratt

Before the advent of 6th Edition Rules, artifacts used to shut off when tapped. Cards such as Kill Switch were actually pretty useful in combination with Winter Orb (not to mention hosing Tinker and Wildfire decks). Meanwhile, artifacts such as the Furnace were reasonably balanced. Tap to remove the bottom card of a graveyard or sacrifice it to draw. You couldn’t do both, since tapping the Furnace prevents you from using the other ability. It meant that you had to choose one or the other – not both.

Fast forward to 6th Edition Rules. Now with the ability to use both abilities, the Furnace should also read (2): Cycle and remove up to two cards from any graveyard from the game. After all, that’s the cost of casting it, using its first ability, and sacrificing it to remove another and draw a card.

With that in mind, taking a look at the Extended field, there is almost no reason why the Furnace can’t be maindecked. The current environment does not support non-interactive decks. Each deck needs to be able to defeat – or at least seriously hamper – an opponent’s strategy. To do that, you either attack the opponent’s hand, library, creatures, land, or graveyard. However, doing that usually requires a silver bullet that can take out one specific decktype, but become completely worthless against others. Dr. P’s Rock and His Millions deck ran one maindeck Choke that was devastating against Islands, but a wasted draw against others. Swords to Plowshares and Wrath of God are incredibly strong against your opponent’s creatures, but wasted against Donate. Each useless bullet that you draw becomes another chance for your opponent to destroy you. Furthermore, the bullet is denied to you if you aren’t playing or splashing that color. Pyroblast requires red; Choke requires green and no blue. Perish means you can’t run green effectively.

Enter the Furnace. Obviously, this card is meant to devastate a player’s graveyard strategy. While limited in its attack, the furnace is surprisingly powerful in the current environment. Almost each color in Extended has a card that the Furnace can attack:


Accumulated Knowledge




Recurring Nightmare

Living Death

Nether Shadow

Krovikan Horror

Buried Alive (anything discarded to it)


Call the Herd

Gaea’s Blessing (and everything that could be reused with it)

Oath of Druids



None directly

Can you find a card in your Extended deck that the furnace would not affect? Only WW and Sligh are truly immune to the Furnace. However, every other color, especially Green and Black, have many vulnerable spots. Half of the Top 8 at Las Vegas ran Call the Herd. The other half was made of Rock decks that sported Recurring Nightmare and other graveyard recursion cards.

The fact is, Extended tends to find lots of utility out of its graveyard. Cards such as Gaea’s Blessing and Recurring Nightmare make it possible to continually overextend your hand or creature base because Nightmare and Blessing negate the losses by assuring that those cards have a chance of coming back. Use your Plowshares too early? Blessing them back in. Decks such as O.D.D., Turboland, and Oath rely on Blessings to fight their wars of attrition. Meanwhile, Living Death and Recurring Nightmare can retrieve silver-bullet creatures, such as Feeders, Weavers, Plaguelords, or Mongers. As for Reanimator, the graveyard recursion found in Squee and Horrors make discarding to Zombie Infestation viable. Finally, Accumulated Knowledge goes without saying.

Maindecking one or two Furnace would give you a reaction from Game! to ho-hum cantrip – but it’s never useless. Because of its ability to replace itself, the Furnace is a cheap one mana investment that can single-handedly win a game. Dropping a first-turn furnace against Oath, Reanimator, or any recursion deck will force your opponent to work around you because it makes their strategy extremely risky. Furnace to those decks is like Seals to Donate: One bad move can cost them the game. It forces them to play around you, which allows you to proceed with your own path to victory. Almost every Extended deck should attempt to abuse the graveyard, because the graveyard is just bursting with opportunities to generate card advantage or quality. As a result, people should be metagaming against this entire phenomenon. It’s a proposition that greatly favors Furnace players, and the worst thing that can possibly happen is you announce”I cast Furnace, sac Furnace, draw a card.”

So how would you fit the furnace into your Extended deck? If your deck can cut some slack, you should try and fill it in. However, there are deckbuilders out there who scream that their deck is too tight to fill these guys in – that’s utter nonsense! If anything, the Furnace should replace the fourth copy of any card that is designed to hinder your opponent’s strategy. Barring Sligh and Stompy decks, who are almost 100% non-responsive to the opponent (hence their failure as a Tier 1 deck), most decks have some form of maindecked situational control that can be hit-or-miss against the opponent.

White: Swords to Plowshares, Seal of Cleansing/Disenchant

Blue: Fire/Ice, Capsize, counters

Black: Duress

Green: Wall of Roots (doubles as mana)

Red: Fire/Ice

Artifact: Nevinyrral’s Disk, Powder Kegs

Gold: Vindicate, Pernicious Deed, Gerrard’s Verdict

The biggest cards out there are Swords, Duress, and Seals. The Furnace can easily replace one of these cards. After all, you are just substituting one form of denial with another. And as I was saying before, except for Ice, none of these cards can guarantee that they will always be useful and replace themselves if used. In an environment where disadvantage of any sorts can be devastating, the ability to break even or come ahead with each card is crucial, and the furnace is one of those cards that can do it. Plows are useless against Morphlings. Duress can come out with nothing. Verdict is dangerous against Reanimator. Each instance is an example of where you come out losing cards because your cards do not disable your opponent. However, until the day Null Rod is maindecked in every deck, the Furnace can always break even by cycling – and that is the best metagaming trick you could possibly ask for.